Author : Paul Alex Gray

“See everyone’s got a level,” says Cassie, swigging more than a mouthful of lager. “You can go way over. But you’ll pay. We paid! Remember? You’d always swear ‘never again!’”

She smiles broadly and nods at my glass. I take the hint and swallow down as much as I can. I’m already too drunk.

“Ahh, but before long, you level out. That yearning comes back. A tickle in the throat. You’ll be ready again.”

Outside it’s blowing a gale, the rain smashing against the pub windows. I haven’t seen her in years. Haven’t even been to London in a decade.

Then I’d had that dream. Or what had surely been a dream.

I’m jet lagged as all hell. My movements don’t even seem real. Twenty-eight hours on a plane. The disapproving stare from June’s mum still burned in my memory. Why do you have to go now? Is it really that important?

Her dad was furious I was leaving so soon after the funeral. I think he still held me accountable somehow, even though the cops had cleared me. I was in Melbourne when she disappeared, a thousand k’s away.

“You know,” says Cassie “I had a huge crush on you back when we flatted together.”

Classic Cassie. She’s smiling with that lopsided grin the same I remember, except with longer lines around the edges now. She still has that elfin hair, now flecked with grey, like me. Eyes bright like gold.

“I guess… I wasn’t so good at picking up on things back then.” I mumble.

There’s a loutish cheer. The crowd here is mean. Why did she take me to this place? A little while back some blokes got into a brawl. I’m ten years too old and ten thousand k’s too far removed from this life to be here.

“All good Mark,” she smiles. “We’ll get her back.”

I notice a bloke has come up, he’s glaring over us. Stares me up and down, then sneers at Cassie. He’s about to say something when she slams her glass down.

“The fuck’s your problem?” she spits.

“Bit lippy there luv,” he growls. “Have to drop that if you wanna get with me.”

His mates laugh and he leans in, moving his face up to kiss her.

There’s a flash of movement. Something hot and bright bursts from Cassie and hits the bloke sending him flying across the room. He cracks his head on the pool table edge with a sickening sound.

“What the fuck!” yells his mate.

I’m an idiot for calling Cassie. For coming here. And yet… that dream. Too real. Too clear. A dream of June, locked inside a tower above a field that I could draw with my eyes closed. And Cassie… holding a sword, beckoning me to come with her.

Cassie finishes her beer and slams the glass on the table. She waves her arm and a thin line of light seeps from her finger. Only it stays where she moves, cutting a shimmering oval before us.

The crowd is surging, angry and spoiling for a fight. I can barely register them for what I see through Cassie’s oval of light. A field of corn under a blood red sky. A dark tower on a hill in the distance.

“Come on Romeo,” says Cassie, a glowing beam of fire in her hands. “Time to get your girl back.”